A fire in or around your home or place of business can be a devastating and traumatic experience. Fire Prevention Week in the United States runs from October 6 – 12, 2019. The Fire Prevention Week has a simple mission statement of ‘practice and plan your escape’ the goal is to help families prevent fires and prepare in the event of a fire. Here are some safety tips from fire safety experts.
The Importance of Fire Prevention – From the Experts
Tips from Zack Zarrilli, Firefighter
Zack Zarrilli, is a firefighter and the owner of SureFire CPR. His company is comprised of firefighters, paramedics, lifeguards and EMTs who teach hundreds of CPR, BLS, ACLS, NRP, AED and first aid classes every year. SureFire CPR’s instructors teach from their own real-world experience and specialize in on-site CPR and First Aid training in all of Southern California. Zack has been involved in firefighting and EMS since 2004. Here are his thoughts on fire prevention and safety.
“Knowing what to do in the event of a fire is important because you could potentially save your life as well as the life of others. Here are a few actionable tips:
1. Make sure your fire extinguisher is on the path towards an exit and easily accessible. If your extinguisher is under the sink buried in the corner of a cabinet or in the garage it won’t do you any good. If you cannot put out the fire while it is very small, get out and call 911.
2. When using a fire extinguisher, pull the pin, aim at the base of the flames, squeeze the trigger, and sweep from side to side. The most common mistake I see people making when using an extinguisher is aiming too high (at the top of the flames). Aim low at the base of the fire to be most effective.
3. Don’t go back in! If your house is on fire you should not go back in under any circumstances. Firefighters are on the way and if there is a pet or something extremely valuable inside, wait by the curb and direct us where to go. Without the proper gear to enter a burning building, you will easily be overcome by smoke and can pass out.
4. For cooking fires, do not take a flaming pan from the stove and run outside to discard the pan! This is very common behavior and usually causes the fire to spread (by spilling burning grease) or 2nd and 3rd degree burns to the hands, arms, and legs of the cook. Instead, use a lid or cookie sheet to place over the pan and turn off the heat. This will smother the fire. Only remove the lid once the pot or pan has cooled completely to ensure the fire does not rekindle. “
Tips from Chuck Roydhouse, Retired Firefighter
Chuck is a retired professional firefighter, and owner of Clean Sweep of Anne Arundel County. He is the President of CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America). He has a degree in Fire Science from Shepherd University and 25 years of experience as a career firefighter. His response includes some stats, some of his experiences as a firefighter, and 12 fire safety tips for the home.
The Importance Of Fire Safety & Tips For Fire Safety Week
“I was a career firefighter for 25 years and a volunteer for about three years before that, so I have about 30 years of experience. The things that I’ve seen have been very, very devastating. People don’t understand how serious fires are and how fast fires move.
- Three out of five fire-related deaths in the home occur because the home lacks working smoke detectors. Seven people in the United States die from a fire in the home every day. From 2014-2015 there were about 350 fires reported in the home daily. Firefighters respond to home structure fires almost 400,000x a year and they result in 10 billion dollars worth of damage, about 12,000 civilian injuries, and about 2,600 deaths every year. 51% of fires in the house that start in a bedroom have fatalities.
- At Christmas time, it’s really bad because so many people get live Christmas trees and don’t keep them watered. They don’t understand the amount of water that is needed to keep the tree from drying out. If a Christmas tree ignites, literally in a matter of seconds, you have a ball of fire in your family room. There’s nobody that’s going to be able to get there quick enough to help you, and there’s nothing you’re going to be able to do to help yourself.
- I also responded to a lot of fires caused by people not using their fireplaces or woodstoves correctly. I drove a ladder truck so I went to all structure fires. Sometimes I would show up to a home with flames shooting out of the chimney top, and the homeowner would have no idea there was a chimney fire. We wouldn’t have showed up when we did if a neighbor hadn’t called the fire department.
- The average response time for a fire company to get to your home nationwide is five minutes. There are a lot of places in rural areas that might have a 15 minute response time. If a fire’s burning freely for five to 15 minutes, it pretty much ensures we’re not going to save anything when we get there, unfortunately.
So Why is Fire Safety so Important?
“Your home is likely your most prized possession and your biggest investment. When you have a house fire, we’re trying to extinguish it quickly and save your home, as well as your belongings, your wedding albums, your photos, all of the things in your home that you cherish. If we are able to extinguish the fire, there’s water damage and smoke damage to worry about. It’s just not worth taking the risk.
It’s always better to invest a small amount of money into preventative maintenance than it is to roll the dice and take your chances, Because when you play with fire, you are almost always going to lose. What we see — the pain on people’s faces, the crying, the explaining to their children why they can’t go back into the home, the loss of pets or family — I’ve seen all of these types of things, and it’s just devastating. It just pulls your heart out because we almost feel helpless, and we were the ones they called to make their day better. The problem with the fire service is we usually meet you on the worst possible day of your life. So please, make fire safety and prevention a priority in your home.”
“12 Fire Safety Tips”
“#1 Check for adequate smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. One of the first things you should check is that you have adequate smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in the home. You should have one of each on each level of the home, especially in the hallway outside of the sleeping areas. Three out of five fire-related deaths in the home occur because the home lacks working smoke detectors.
#2 Make sure you have a fire exit plan in place. Everyone in your family should know what to do in the event of a fire. A fire in the home can cause confusion — especially if it takes place in the middle of the night when you’re groggy — so the more prepared you are, the better. Everyone should know exactly how to safely exit the house, no matter where the fire is located. That means knowing that if you can’t get out through a normal channel like a back door or front door, you can safely exit through a window. Fire escape ladders are good to have in multiple rooms on the upper levels of the home for this reason, and they are inexpensive and easy to store.
#3 Sleep with your bedroom door closed. Statistics show that sleeping with your bedroom door closed is a good deterrent for keeping out heat from a
fire. When I was a professional firefighter, I went to homes where one bedroom was totally damaged and the one across the hall with the door shut
(that should have been just as damaged) just had some smoke in it, but no fire or extra heat in there. So sleeping with the door shut is very important.
#4 Keep 15 lb. ABC fire extinguishers in multiple areas of the home. A good rule of thumb is to have one in the kitchen area, one in a hallway closet, and one in the corner of a family room. That way, no matter where the fire is in the home, you don’t have to go into the room where the fire is to get the fire extinguisher.
#5 Have your dryer vent cleaned and inspected annually. The second leading cause of house fires is dryer vents or clothes dryers, and you’re going to
want to always have those cleaned out and inspected on a yearly basis, per National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommendations. Visit the CSIA’s website to find a certified dryer exhaust technician (CDET) in your area.
#6 Have your woodstoves, fireplaces, and furnaces inspected annually. For fire safety, the NFPA and CSIA recommend annual inspections for all vented appliances, not just dryer vents. Usually the cause of a chimney fire is that the homeowner is not having the chimney inspected yearly and cleaned as needed by a CSIA certified technician. When we do a chimney inspection, we’re making sure it’s suitable for use. We want to make sure that you don’t have a buildup of creosote or soot that could ignite. When creosote ignites, it’s like lighting off tar, and it puts off an incredible amount of heat energy very rapidly. When that happens, the masonry structure cannot contain it, and it cracks and fails. It’s very similar to pouring a pot of boiling water into an ice tea glass. The ice tea glass will fracture under the stress. It fractures because the molecules in the glass start moving around so fast they become spastic and they want to explode. The glass can’t expand fast enough to allow it to hold the new heated material, whereas if you have something that is tempered like Pyrex, it is made to take the heat, absorb it, and not crack. When you put too much heat inside of a chimney, which isn’t made to be burned in, then (like the iced tea glass) the inside terra cotta flue liner cracks in about 30-60 seconds. When it cracks, you open up areas and send superheated gases and flames into you wall space, which could potentially set your wall or attic on fire. All of this happens in a matter of 30 seconds to a minute and a half. You don’t want to be in that position because it’s hard to react, so invest in annual inspections and cleanings as needed.
#7 Keep space heaters, radiators, and electric fan heaters away from combustibles. Auxiliary heaters should be kept at least 36” away from drapes, couches, newspapers, and anything that could be considered combustible. The reason being that the heater could dry these out, make them hot, and cause them to ignite. You also want to keep these heaters out of areas where children could run into them or touch them and burn themselves.
#8 Don’t use extension cords for auxiliary heaters. Heaters come with a proper dualistic cord for the proper length to get you to a receptacle. When you plug one into an extension cord, the heater could overheat the extension cord and the rug or other combustible material nearby, causing a fire.
#9 Don’t overload your receptacle outlets. It might be tempting to get a receptacle strip that allows you to run 20 different items, but your receptacle outlet is not set up for that. You don’t want to overload the outlet or the circuit box. A circuit box fire could occur inside the wall, smoldering, and burning for quite some time before it just blooms out of control. If you don’t have enough electrical outlets in your living space, call a qualified electrician to come in and add some electrical outlets in your home instead.
#10 Keep combustibles away from cooktops in the kitchen. The #1 cause of house fires is kitchen fires, so keep combustibles like drapes away from the stove. You also don’t want to come home with a pizza box or groceries and set them on the stove. If it’s an electric stove, you don’t know if it was just used and is still transmitting heat. If it’s a standing pilot light gas stove, you’re always going to have a flame there. You don’t need something melting or catching fire.
#11 Never store flammable liquids in your home. Gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, and things like that should be stored outside in a proper container that will vent if overheated. That way, it’s not venting into your living space. When you have these fuels off-gassing in your home, they could be ignited by something as simple as an electrical spark by throwing a switch and static electricity, or a pilot light that’s running a water heater. If you store a lawn mower with gasoline or a gasoline can for a generator in your basement, all the sudden the whole basement can just light off. And that’s not a good thing to have happen.
#12 Never smoke inside the home. Many bedroom fires are typically caused by smoking in bed. The cigarette continues to burn after you fall asleep because of a chemical additive. When you fall asleep with a cigarette, you’re lying on a mattress and you have cloth, polyurethane, and plastic around you, all of which burn very rapidly. In fact, a pound of plastic puts off 2.5x the heat energy as a pound of wood. With all the plastics and glues we now have in the home, houses are burning at a much faster rate today than they did in the 60s and 70s. “
At Restoration 1, we know all too well the devastation caused by fire and smoke damage. This is why we want to honor and share our appreciation of firefighters and fire safety experts during Fire Prevention Week. If you or someone you know has been a victim of a fire tragedy, count on our professional team of fire damage experts to help get your home or business back to working order. Find a fire restoration expert near you today.